Here is a riddle for you – what does COVID-19 and its impact on office space have in common with a magic carpet ride?
The answer lies in the ear-worm of a song that Aladdin and Jasmine belt out as they soar through the air under the magical moonlight. “A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view!”
You might be thinking that I have been watching too many kids movies while social distancing and you would be right. But hear me out. Coronavirus has forced us to stop and reconsider the way we live, the way we work, and how we spend our time. The new working world is going to look a little different, and while it is unlikely that the office will become obsolete anytime soon, it is natural that we need to reconsider how the post-COVID office space looks.
At the same time, a lot of commercial building investors are probably wondering how to make their space profitable in an era of social distancing and lower office attendance. Never fear, our team here specialises in property management for commercial real estate and knows all the tricks to ensure your building stands out from the crowd.
We have compiled a list of office features that will make your office as desirable as the genie’s three wishes.
Clean, low-touch spaces
I accidentally touched the receptionist’s hand when paying for my physio appointment (tap and pay no contact payment of course!), and we both leapt back as though we’d been electrocuted.
Our caution around germs and physical contact is likely to stick around indefinitely, which will have prospective office tenants on the look-out for low contact features. You can expect to see a demand for technology like automatic opening doors and motion sensor lights.
Just as important is the way you maintain air quality. Forward-thinking owners of office buildings might already be looking into air purifiers and filtration units to minimise the spread of airborne pathogens. This trend is already growing in China where monitors and apps look at levels of PM2.5, carbon dioxide, VOCs and other pollutants to allow businesses to use indoor air quality as a market differentiator. It is a natural evolution to deploy this technology to fight the spread of viruses like COVID-19 and the flu.
In line with this thinking, look out for the use of self-cleaning materials when building or renovating commercial properties. Think antiviral doorknobs, cupboard handles and even desk or counter surfaces.
The more germ-adverse you can make your office, the more desirable it will become.
There has been an assumption that post-COVID, companies will need less office space as many people continue working from home. While some companies may downsize, many will need office space to evolve to suit their new requirements.
The first consideration will be more space between desks and larger kitchen or break rooms. There has been discussion of reintroducing partitions between desks, but this idea has the disadvantage of adding in extra surfaces to disinfect. Open-plan offices are here to stay, but we are likely to see fewer people working in the office at any one time.
So where will the rest of the employees be? They are working from home of course! Video conferencing rooms will become essential to cater for the WFH contingent to stay in close contact with the office contingent. Meeting rooms that enable one or two staff members to connect with those WFH will replace large meeting rooms where people crowd around a boardroom table.
Compelling Lifestyle Features
But it isn’t all work and no play. The “new world” has led people to rediscover the joy of exercise, with gym equipment and bike sales booming in 2020. Office buildings with fitness studios, secure bike parking and shower facilities will be coveted in 2021 and beyond. Likewise, services such as childcare centres, which simplify people’s work/life routine will be in high demand.
While many companies will encourage an extension of the work-from-home flexibility for at least part of the week, they will still see the value in bringing employees together in a face-to-face environment. There is an energy and an ability to collaborate in the office, which is hard to replicate no matter how many Zoom meetings you arrange.
With this in mind, companies will also need to up their game to make the office compelling to employees. High-end tech is a sure-fire way to achieve this, whether you have a 3D printer, electric standing desks or the most comfortable and ergonomic desk chairs known to man. Of course, for other employees, the idea of escaping from their yapping dog or the two-year-old’s tantrums may be enough of a draw-card in itself.
It is time to channel Aladdin and Jasmine and adapt, pivot and reimagine your office space. For more tips to maximise the value of your investment, give our property management team a call.